ANNALISA SMITH is about to live her Brazilian dream. Years ago, she became immersed in the South American country’s culture through involvement in the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira, which incorporates elements of martial arts and dance.
“Brazil is a dream to me,” Smith declared. “I always dreamed of visiting Brazil and experiencing the culture, the food, the dance, the country itself, the big statue (Christ the Redeemer). I never thought I would be so blessed to visit Brazil at this stage in my life. It certainly is incredible.”
Brazil, the home of football, has not hosted a FIFA football World Cup for 64 years, and by virtue of winning last month’s CCN-TV 6 Soca Samba Brazil fitness competition, Smith will be there for the 2014 World Cup. Her prize is an all expense paid trip for one to Brazil, courtesy sponsors All-Sport Promotions. While there, she will see four World Cup matches, stay in a four-star hotel and also have a Brazilian tour. Not an avid football follower, Smith nevertheless gets involved for the “big games” such as World Cup and Champions League.”
“There is no way I am missing that. I am going.” she said. “I cannot wait to go. Even though I am going by myself, that doesn’t bother me one bit. A working single mother of one, originally from San Fernando, Smith’s background is fitness and dance. She has been into fitness since a child when there was a gym under their home. And since 2010, Smith has been a Miami- licensed Zumba fitness instructor, who teaches twice a week at Trinidad Country Club.
“Before Zumba, I enjoyed aerobics. But when I got to add dance to my aerobics, I just fell for it.”
Smith tries to train at least four times a week, and also began doing interval and strength training prior to the competition. Winning the TV 6 Soca Samba Brazil at Jean Pierre Complex was no easy task. But, she went into it confident, visualising success, and even confessed that she would win.
“I didn’t enter the competition for fun. I would be lying if I said so. I was confident.” Smith said. But on competition day ,she got worried after recognising “hardcore” fitness enthusiasts among the mass of entrants.
“You can tell the ones that are serious about fitness. When I saw them, I said: ‘oh dear, oh dear’. I called a friend and said: ‘please bring me a Red Bull’.”
Consisting of some two hours of constant aerobic movement and fitness requirements, the competition presented its own challenges- especially during the strength training segment. . She was exhausted near the end, but kept going.
“I started to get into some trouble when my calves started to cramp. Both of them. I have never experienced that in my life,” Smith declared. “It was bad. I was in shock.”
“I thought, okay, I am done,” she said. “For a good while, I thought someone was going to come and signal to me that I was out.”
However, she drew on her experience as an instructor to fight through the pain, and having survived, finished strongly.
“I got very focused on maintaining proper form. When you going through that type of fatigue, one tends to do things halfway. As an instructor I knew that. I just had to keep pushing through it. I do it all the time,” she said. “There are times when I have to teach a class, and I am completely and utterly exhausted from my day. But once I go up on that stage, it’s energy, high impact, motivation and smiles. If it’s one thing I was sure I would win was “Best Smile” because nobody smiles through a workout like me.”
Smith added: “I started to feel hopeful when I saw another instructor, a male aerobic instructor I used to go to when I was younger, get eliminated. He had me worried. When he was gone I said, okay, I think there is hope for me.”
By the end, Smith and the remaining competitors were bloodied and bruised with gravel and other debris on the surface taking its toll. It was closing in on 12 noon and the sun was blazing. She described competition among the last three as “fierce” and her last two opponents as “very good”. Then it was just two left.
“We had to do plank, which I am pretty okay at. We went down on the ground on our elbows and had to keep an upright position. I was pretty bruised up, and a little bloody, but the other competitor was having some problems, probably because of the pitch, and she went down. I stayed on my plank.”
Then came the announcement that she had won and Smith began to dance.
“At that point my mouth was so dry. I just wanted a drink of water because I went down there by myself. I had no friends or anything, whereas some of the other contestants had their friends bringing them water, and cheering them on. I was the Lone Ranger begging for water from anybody.”
“I couldn’t believe I won at first. But I could at the same time, Smith said. “I was extremely overjoyed. It was euphoric,” she ended.